UTR Team and Contributors / Thursday 17th December, 2020 11:04AM
We’ve nearly made it to the end of a year that even Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described as "horrendous", but before we bounce from the office for some long-awaited summer fun, it’s time to unveil our 2020 Music Moments. We invited contributors who’ve generously leant their talents to the site over the past twelve months to share their reflections on an incomparable year.
Special thanks to everyone who contributed to our proudly independent music news and ticketing site in 2020 — to NZ On Air, NZ Music Commission and MusicHelps for their support in helping us bring you the best local music news during the wildest of times, to all the artists for producing such inspiring work, to the events organisers who gave us awesome live shows to look forward to, and thanks to you dear reader for making it all worthwhile! Dive in, explore and enjoy the selections below, and don’t forget to check out (if you haven’t already) our 86 track 2020 End Of Year Playlist…
Ngā Tuone by Riki Gooch, performed as part of the Jazz Premier Series for the Wellington Jazz Festival
It feels wrong to categorise this as a ‘live’ experience considering that I spent most of the performance morphing between Nonexistence and Being in the astral plane. Gooch developed a gestural language with 11 musicians to conduct this improvised set through four movements: Nothingness; Birth, Chaos of Life; Death and Transcendence. Al Fraser’s swinging a feedback mic around the church ceiling. The saxophonist is scraping at a thumb piano with a bell. There are ping pong balls flying all over the place. Weirdly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the nature of the universe in more clarity.
Chris Knox, live at Deep Dive Festival
The world doesn’t have another Chris Knox, and I honestly never thought I’d get a chance to see him perform. And to be fair, I didn’t exactly see him at Deep Dive. I was wedged at the back by the sound desk, weaving my head side to side to try to get a glimpse, while Knox’s poetry rattled around the room on waves of laughter and bated breaths. Reps from every generation and wave of Aotearoa’s punk scene were together that night, listening to wisdom, stories, perspectives that only we can decipher with our modest and brilliant cultural dialect. I think we were all aware in those precious minutes that we really owe so much to Chris. I’ll never forget that feeling.
Wax Chattels – Clot
I cannot get enough of the sound that opens ‘Cede’. It’s like I’ve spent my life in sleep mode, and suddenly someone’s turned on my computer. There’s something jaw clenching and focused and powerful about it that perfectly prefaces the force of Amanda Cheng’s lyrics in this track. The album is a masterpiece that deals with the fucked state of the world head on without dipping me into any kind of self pitying remorse. Huge, terrifying, empowering, enraging. Honorary mention to Connor Crawford’s photo of Peter Ruddell, the visual embodiment of the sound.
Minyo Crusaders, live at WOMAD
Honestly this was the most wholesome live music experience of my year. I went to WOMAD to celebrate the wedding of my best mates. The whole whānau from across the whenua was there, and as the stars came out over Ngāmotu we took off our shoes and danced under trees glowing above the stage lights. The band is on a mission to retain and reinvigorate Japan’s min’yō traditions, and use cumbia sounds to keep the folk stories and their lessons alive. It was uplifting, it asked us to remember who we are, it showed how joyous we can be when we are together. Their first album is one of my most played, and is quickly becoming the soundtrack of my life.
The moment Tom Scott’s mic hits the floor after the final line of ‘Home’, live at the Wellington Opera House
I’d seen Avantdale Bowling Club before so I knew I was going to vibe, but I hadn’t expected a second live experience to be so affecting. The band was relaxed and connected on that strange field of consciousness that jazz musicians get. But they left the stage for this track and gave Scott the floor. It was so satisfying to see that finally, now that we can’t get international acts over, musicians in Aotearoa have access to these large local platforms where they can speak to their experience and get a crowd to realise that we have shit to do, and we don’t have to accept the status quo. Scott’s been saying it for years, and it never loses its power. ‘Livin off the misery of Māori, milking the manaakitanga as if parliament’s a party that her man’s DJing at. But I ain’t playing that, I jumped up in an Uber and told the pilot to take me back home.’
UTR CONTRIBUTOR AND MUSICIAN
Everything Noa Records did
I haven’t been this jazzed about a record label since I was 16 and thought knowing cat numbers was the height of cool. Every release on Noa Records this year felt like it was sent from an alternate timeline where 2020 wasn’t shit and the future was Happening Now. If you haven’t copped the Virtual Shadow Ensemble LP yet, do it now.
Deb5000 Halloween Show at The Vault
Nothing says Halloween like a giant cockroach playing a coffin shaped guitar and warning you about your rat boyfriend. He’s got a rat hand! He’s got a rat face! He was a rat all along!
Louisa Nicklin and Babyteeth doing ‘Teenage Dirtbag‘
Hey, this one’s me! Some of us still haven’t gotten over being a teenager, that’s why some of us start pop punk bands. Getting on stage and yelping out this Wheatus classic with a bunch of friends definitely exorcised a few demons, and worked out much cheaper than therapy.
Up In Smoke – Reuben Winter Memorial Gig
I have never felt time so plastic and compressed as when ROIDZ played a song they’d once recorded with Reuben in our Sandringham living room, that they’d once played Chronophonium something like a decade ago and Reuben said we absolutely had to go see them. Gonna watch Galaxy Quest this Christmas and think of you Reuben.
K M T P – P.S. C U SOON
I cried to a lot of music in 2020. A hyperpop cover of ‘About You Now’ by Sugababes, an Al Green song that came on the supermarket, pretty much every track Roy Irwin and PHF put out, I even cried to one of the ABBA tracks where the boy ones sing. But nothing quite hit that earnest, hopeful, Stay True Young Emo sweet spot like this one.
UTR ASSISTANT EDITOR
Back when Corona was just a beer and I thought slugs were snails without a shell, I enjoyed one of my purest moments of festival glee. By the time Charli XCX took to the Ranger Stage at Laneway 2020, I’d gained the obnoxious confidence of someone who’d had several lagers and a few somethings elses, granting me the gall to snake my way through the hundreds of people who’d actually arrived early enough for a good spot. To make matters worse (better), Charli encouraged the crowd to get up on someone’s shoulders for the last song, so I immediately tapped the broad-shouldered stranger in front of me who graciously hoisted me up. Plot twist: The stranger was none other that UTR alum Fluffy, of Lemon Pepper and Hoisin Sauce fame.
Taylor Swift – Folklore
Let’s just say the opening line "I’m doing good, I’m on some new shit" really summed up my year.
The Beths’ Auckland Town Hall Show
This year I was stupidly lucky to play a wee part in the emotionally-charged Beths Auckland Town Hall show, the last stop in their Jump Rope Gazers Aotearoa tour. With the enthusiasm of Phoebe Buffay put in charge of cups and ice, I borrowed approx. fifty houseplants, took the band for two bird-lantern craft sessions, and put together a film crew uniform complete with iron-on pineapples. The night lead to happy tears and a very full heart, even if it did end with returning five hanging plants to Josy Cafe with a prop ladder at 3am.
Suzy Cato BFF
Circa 1999, a very small, starstruck Annabel was too scared to have her photo taken with Suzy Cato at Christchurch’s Cashmere Club. In 2017, I hid in my journalism school classroom, frozen with fear as Suzy Cato took the neighbouring class for a lesson, not willing to risk a potential hallway run-in. This year, I was seated at the Aotearoa Music Awards just one row down from a lonely Cato. It may have taken an hour to pluck up the rosé-induced courage, but eventually I invited her to join my party, where she sat next to me the whole night and became my new best friend. The End.
Kōtiro – ‘Force Field’
I’m forever in awe of Ana Scotney’s off-the-charts charisma and magnetism. Not only is the video for ‘Force Field’ overflowing with both of those things, she’s also planted a seed deep in my brain telling me I should incorporate a pink mouthguard into my summer wardrobe. She really rocks the pink mouthguard.
FRENCH FOR RABBITS, HOME ALONE RECORDS
Reb Fountain – When Gods Lie
The rise of Reb: I’ve been a fan of Reb Fountain for years — she inhabits her songs so well, vividly painted, full of character and grit. Her new album is my favourite yet, and I’m so excited to see the rest of the world cottoning on to our best kept secret!
Hand Habits – House Concert in Wellington
Hand Habits performed an intimate house concert in Wellington in February, before making it home to the US only a week or two before the lockdown. I discovered their music while at an Aldous Harding concert in LA, and was instantly hooked on Meg’s guitar playing and songwriting. It felt like such a special occasion — little did we know it would be one of our last shows for a long time! A bonus highlight for this year has been the amazing live streamed performances — including this one by Angel Olsen and Hand Habits.
2020, the year of creation
This year has been the year of creation — from Charli XCX’s How I’m Feeling Now to Taylor Swifts Folklore – many artists have been tucked away in homes and studios filling suddenly empty tour schedules with new music. It’s honestly been a joy to be able to focus purely on creativity — and I’m so happy I could do this personally for French for Rabbits, maybe we’ve made our best record yet… we’ll see! My prediction is for a very busy year of new releases in 2021.
Helena Massey – Brothers, Puffins & Half Skulls
I had a few favourite albums this year — those by Fiona Apple, Moses Sumney, Adrianne Lenker, Phoebe Bridgers and This is the Kit definitely soundtracked the year. But the one I listened to and loved the most was a Home Alone release by Australian singer and guitarist Helena Massey. I’m a big advocate for ‘slow music’, the kind that doesn’t necessarily fit easily into the digital world because it doesn’t provide an instant sugar rush. Her album is definitely of the "slower release" kind — it rewards on repeat listens. Highly recommended!
Sheep, Dog & Wolf – ‘Two-Minds’
Like ‘Glare’ back in 2014, ‘Two-Minds’ is a dense, emotional and anxiety-inducing listen…looking forward to the record!
WELLINGTON BASED PHOTOGRAPHER
Queen playing Wellington
Standing in front of 33000 people taking pictures of one of the biggest bands to play on this planet was rather spectacular. Only bad bit, was the security not being able to count to three, and chucking us photographers out of the pit after the second song…
Obituary and Wormrot at San Fran
This show was so close to not happening. Flights were delayed and Obituary’s guitars failed to arrive. Thankfully back up gear was found at the last moment. What made it special for me, was seeing Obituary play their whole album ‘Cause Of Death’. First time I saw Obituary, they had just released that album and I saw them perform it at the London Marquee in 91.
Take Shelter Festival
Load of crusty punk bands turn up with a PA at the bunkers overlooking Wellington Airport, perform an incredibly loud gig for a couple of hours, and tidy the place up before heading home. What’s not to like?!!!
Everyone helping keep our venues going
Covid has been a kick in the teeth for everyone, but it was great seeing people pulling together and raising money for our venues with all sorts of schemes. I must admit, I actually enjoyed sitting down at the odd covid show, but it is great having things back to normal.
Bob has been quite consistent this year with his releases of grime and punk. His music certainly isn’t pretty while delving into racism, drugs and shankings. But growing up on the outskirts of London, it does also bring back some fond memories of home.
Save Our Venues
Easy to take for granted now, but back in April it looked like our entire live gig scene could be wiped off the map by the twin forces of Covid and bloodsucking vampires venue landlords. Thankfully that hasn’t turned out to be the case, largely due to our community rallying together to raise funds for independent venues across Aotearoa in a pinch. If you donated and / or helped raise funds for Save Our Venues or any other related initiatives (eg. MusicHelps), you are a fucking champion, straight up.
There was an astounding moment that occurred just after lockdown’s sudden onset, when nearly every gigging musician in NZ added livestream shows to their toolset in about the space of two weeks, due to every live show being cancelled / postponed simultaneously. Everybody had a crack at it, including me. There were tricky technical aspects to navigate (where do you buy audio-visual cables when all the stores are closed?), but there was genuine innovation in the air when, for a certain period, rules were out the window. Artists such as Stef Animal, Delaney Davidson and The Beths proved to be masters of the emerging medium, beamed out online by such crucial DIY initiatives as Melted Ice Cream’s Better Living, Everyone! fest.
Use No Hooks – Do The Job
The non-stop soundtrack to my apartment’s work from home schedule, we went deep into Chapter Music’s collection of little known / unheard songs by Use No Hooks, supplemented by a sampling of Aussie horror films over on streaming service Shudder. These early 80s Melbourne post-punks interrogated the politics of everyday office culture with a hefty dose of disco grooves and lyrical bite — unbelievable that such killer tunes could have been sitting on the shelf for nearly 40 years.
Vanessa Worm – Vanessa 77
Vanessa Worm’s album Vanessa 77 is a stunning debut, somehow injecting the wild spirit of Ōtepoti’s noisy underground into global contemporary club contexts. ‘Heaven To Hell’ is the first song I heard from Worm and I wasn’t sure what I was even hearing — always a good sign — plus she’s responsible for one of best live performances I saw this year, absolutely slaying (and crowd surfing) at Friendly Potential’s two night Catacombs dance party.
[NSFW not music bonus pick: Simon Hanselmann’s Crisis Zone serial comic strip over on his Instagram page. For many readers the words ‘Carrot Bottom’ represent an unforgettable highlight of 2020]
Totems – ‘Stunt 151’
There’s no way I can talk about this year without acknowledging the passing of a giant in our community and an artist that I always felt lucky to be friends with — Reuben Samuel Winter (Waitaha / Kāi Tahu / Te Aupōuri / Te Rarawa / Ngāti Kuri), the mega-talented mastermind behind Totems, milk and many other legendary projects. He gave us a daringly diverse back catalogue of music to be inspired by and memories to cherish. Word is there’ll be releases to look forward to in the near future, but I loved his ultra-cool appearance in the video for ‘Stunt 151’ when it dropped in May…
UTR COFFEE MAKER
Delaney Davidson livestream
During lockdown Delaney put together the most captivating, smoke filled journey into his mind over a live stream through Instagram.
Soda Boyz – Farewell Spit
A great sounding, despondent guitar filled album by one of the most interesting bands from NZ.
The Subliminals: Whammy Bar
A live show with people! Every song sounding as great as it ever did, The Subliminals played to a pack-out Whammy Bar, after an earlier Covid Cancellation
The Beths winning Album of the Year for Jump Rope Gazers
A proud dad type moment when you follow a band coming up from small gigs to selling out iconic Powerstaton then winning Album of the Year.
Moon Duo at Hollywood Cinema
Certainly doesn’t feel like that took place this year, but a standout event put together will all the vibes needed by local legend promoter Matthew Crawley.
Memorable hats off to the 3d box light show.
One of my favourite things is when you get to talk music with other musicians. Talking technique or history or just straight up blowing each others minds with things you have discovered along the road, and discovering more about this amazing limitless world of music we have to get lost in. Old stuff new stuff, treasures from the future or the past.
Favourite Album of 2020:
Meridian Brothers – Cumbia del Pichamán
Was hugely excited to see Meridian Brothers release a new album this year. I got given a record of theirs for my birthday some years back and always look out for what they are up to next. I was even more excited to see it was released on Bongo Joe my friends label in Geneva. A real fun album and definitely worth a good listen or 8. Favourite Album of 2020!!
Swamp Dogg – ‘Answer Me My Love’
I was writing with Marlon Williams earlier this year and he asked me if I’d heard this Swamp Dogg album. The freedom in the production, the cinematic approach and the beautiful combination of old and new makes this album feel so fresh. It’s an amazing fearless album and feels like a real labor of love.
The Rolling Stones – ‘Moonlight Mile’
I love to see where music is used in conjunction with image to bring it into a whole new context. Also a great way to rediscover some things that you haven’t heard for a while. Songs come back into some beautiful present context and you carry them through the next few days with you. This song was used to great effect in the Sopranos, I guess I watched a lot of television this year!
The Seeds – The Seeds
I rediscovered this album a few weeks back. It seemed to sum up totally how I was feeling. I put it on really late and wandered around in the garden in the dark, it just had such an atmosphere and a weird longing feeling that took me over. Again I think it’s the simple repetive trance thing I must be a total sucker for ha ha! Every track on this is pure hormonal teenage loser rebel classic.
Baxter Dury – ‘I Am Not Your Dog’
This song and video had me totally spellbound for days. The richness of the production and the strange minimal story. I’ve become a big fan of Baxter Drury because of his lightness of touch and his being unafraid to either mix up all the colours or just use a few. He is really worth a good look into. When I was watching Scarface I recognized that this is filmed over the road from the hotel with the horrible shower scene.
KIKI VAN NEWTOWN
Brittany Howard – ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’
Every piece of music that Brittany Howard touches is perfection. This cover is so huge yet so tender, appropriate for all major life events — births, marriages, divorces, deaths, pandemics. If you haven’t already fervently listened to everything Howard has ever done, 2019’s Jaime basically calmed me down and got me through this year.
Brittany Howard · You’ll Never Walk Alone
Kōtiro – ‘Force Field’
One of my fave local tracks of 2020 is Force Field by Kōtiro, the superb musical project of Ana Chaya Scotney. I had sworn off loop pedals after seeing far too many men pairing them with minor 7th chords, but honest to goddess Kōtiro has changed everything for me. This track makes exceptional use of loops with Ana’s stacked vocals oscillating between lullaby and intense invocation. The accompanying video tells the story of arising and carrying on after death, using the story of Hine Titama transforming into Hine Nui Te Pō to take us on a journey that’s messy yet divine. This song so beautifully embodies a deep magical force field of energy and I wanna do a standing ovation every time I hear it.
Secrets of the Sun
It has been a true pleasure watching Secrets of the Sun evolve into a musical powerhouse over the last year. IMO they are some of the best songwriters around, with their sound ranging from sunken dirges to spangling 80’s goth luminescence. We were lucky to get a second track from SOTS early this year – the ominous ‘Wretched Tracks’. Lead singer Mina’s vocals etch out an unsettling refrain supported by perfectly dissonant backing vocals, while Aimee crafts some of the best guitar lines this side of The Cure. Word on the street is they’re recording a debut LP and I cannot fucking wait.
Finn Johansson painting with his mum
This year we all had to jump to doing shit online and let’s be honest, a lot of it was glitchy af. Pōneke’s Finn Johansson embraced the chaos and gave us Finnfest during lockdown. Finnfest included performances including ‘Finn Plays Every Song He Knows In One Go’ (available on his FB page), but my fav part of Finnfest was Finn painting a moody Bob Ross pic with his mum. Turns out music doesn’t always have to be about the playing, sometimes music is about connecting with your mum and some paint, and holy shit the results are actually really impressive.
Harry Styles covering Peter Gabriel’s ‘Sledgehammer’
This year was truly fruitful in terms of excellent covers. Another one that I can literally barely stand is Harry Styles taking an axe to Sledgehammer. This cover is so refined, so restrained, so sensual, appropriate for exactly only one kind of life event – banging. I feel like a creep every time I listen to this but I cannot stop.
LIAM K. SWIGGS
KING OF REDWOOD
DJ2FUK2 – Dog Song EP (The Big Fresh Collective)
A massive debut release for Tāmaki Makaurau based DJ2FUK2 AKA Jon Hardcastle at the start of 2020 via The Big Fresh Collective which actually happened to fall on the same day as New Zealand went into full Lockdown for the first time! Featuring top tier remixes from Go Nuclear, Keanu Raves, Epsile and a special "Clay Louis Mutt Mix"
Eyeliner – Drop Shadow (Orange Milk Records)
Eyeliner AKA Disasteradio AKA Luke Rowell is my fucking HERO & I absolutely love getting pissed in my little ghetto cabin in Redwood and forcing it upon my hood as mates.
Ultraviolet – ECH003 – ‘G0-45T’ / ‘U’ (Echo Train Records)
Going out to two of my favourite Ōtautahi brothers Benjamin & William for this one! Echo Train Records was started this year by local beat hooligan and good friend of mine Benjamin Hunt AKA Jaga AKA Mr Muscle AKA one half of FIGHT LEGENDZ <3 Featuring 3 stellar EP’s from Jaga, Social Sport & Ultraviolet with this one so far being my personal pick of the bunch by the homie UV laying down a couple of fucking heaters!
Juke Aid: Footmahi For The Bushfires (The Big Fresh Collective)
Big ups to my brother in arms Paploco AKA Aaron Ashworth who’s been toughing it out in Melbourne all year for helping me come up with probably the most important musical venture that I’ve ever been involved with in my life so far – JUKE AID: Footmahi For The Bushfires is a non for profit, Footwork & Juke inspired compilation album where artists from all over Aotearoa & the rest of the world have donated tracks in support of The Victims of the ongoing Australian Bushfires.
DJ RUGGED SHARK – ‘160 IN A 50’ (UNCENSORED)
Coming hot out of Christchurch via way of Burnside it’s the latest member to join the active vigilante justice crew that is the Redwood Patrol – DJ Rugged Shark. His tune headlined the infamous annual 160BPM special Footmahi Volume #005 release we dropped back in May for New Zealand Music Month featuring 100% Kiwi producers from The Dirty South all the way up to Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland with this tasty boy racer bootleg video to go alongside it!
Those 24 hours where we all thought there was gonna be a new Postal Service album.
The Princess Chelsea + Simon Ward show at the Wunderbar!
Princess Chelsea is such a huge inspiration to me and I am such a fan of Simon Ward’s work!! One of the best gigs of all time!! There were lots of weird bootleg Pokémon there! Hard to explain.
My music pal Port Lucian covering my song Bicycle Weather!!!
I am such a big fan of them and am so honoured and they made something a million times better than my version and I could not be more grateful!! They also released a cool EP called ‘Prince of Oddities’ and it is beautiful!!
Watching Frankie Cosmos and Alex G live streams during lockdown!
They both had to cancel their NZ tours but I spent a lot of time during lockdown glued to my phone watching their livestream shows on Instagram! Alex G spent a lot of time being like “why is the screen sideways, how do I get it not sideways, especially if the charger is at this end of the phone, but then all the comments will be sideways…” Top show!
Bedbug‘s latest album life like moving pictures
Bedbug is one of my favourite artists ever, everything they make is such an inspiration to me and their albums almost feel like they so have so much world building and lore. their music is so intimate though, everything feels very lived in. My favourite album of the year and I encourage everyone to listen to their music!!
NON-BINARY SOLO ARTIST FROM TAMAKI
OTTO – Dairy Adventure
Joe Locke showed me OTTO last year some time, they do a great cover of “About You Now” by Sugababes.
I love this song. It’s super cute, fun and helps me bounce to work through the cess pool of humanity without a care in the world.
Phoebe Bridgers – ‘Kyoto’ (Copycat Killer Version)
I walked to Joe’s house down the bike track listening to this song on repeat while pretending I was in Poke’mon because I’m bitch.
Eric Clapton – ‘Stand and Deliver’ written by Van Morrison
Nah, for real though, someone take these old mutts out back and put them down. I listened to 7 seconds of this song and it sucked.
Me buying Blink 182’s classic discography on CD and record.
This year I spent money that I earned from my job on this collection because I’m a fucking idiot.
CHARLI XCX – How I’m Feeling Now
If you don’t like Charli, you’re a narc (probably a cop) and I will never trust you. When I bought this record it had a sticker on the cover that read “The Ultimate Lockdown Album” and I was like “haha so tru, Charli, I love it”.
TARANAKI AH YOUNG-GRACE
Imugi’s EP Dragonfruit
I’ve been mates with and watching these honeys come up through the Auckland indie scene for years, so it’s a bit of a proud uncle moment for me seeing them release such a stellar EP. It really solidified Carl as one of my top Aotearoa-based producers and Yery as one of my top lyricists. My favourite track is definitely ‘Y U Always Actin Like A Fool’ featuring Church & AP.
The ‘You About To Lose Your Job’ Remix
With the growing momentum surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, lest we forget the amazing and hilarious remixes of this incredible woman showing the resilience and relentless humour of black people everywhere.
Lady Gaga’s newest album Chromatica
I’m not the biggest Gaga fan, but I am gay, and incredibly dramatic, and this album was great to listen to on my daily government sanctioned walks during lockdown. My favourite track would have to be ‘Sour Candy’ featuring the iconic BLACKPINK.
Lady Shaka’s lockdown parties
I stumbled upon Lady Shaka during Filth’s online party during lockdown. This UK-based angel is the only DJ I’ve ever woken up at 8am to dance along to. She also DJs for IAMDDB, is a dancer, and curates London’s Pulotu Underworld – a club night celebrating Pacific culture and artists. You can find and follow her on instagram @ladyshaka
Stan Walker’s niece on his track ‘Tua’ or ‘Bigger’
I stumbled upon the Maori version of this waiata while scrolling through Instagram. At first, I was like, “aw nice work, Stan. This is pretty cute.” Little did I know I’d be absolutely floored by his niece singing the last line on the song. I cried. A lot. While screaming like the massive gaybo I am, “yes, we can be bigger! You’re so small, but you’re gonna be big one day,” and that just makes me really happy. I love brown babies, what can I say?